When is it time to see a fertility specialist?

By: Jennifer Sellers

Visits to fertility specialists have been covered humorously by TV sitcoms, but in reality, such an event is far from funny. Being prepared for the experience will help make it less daunting.
Visits to fertility specialists have been covered humorously by TV sitcoms, but in reality, such an event is far from funny. Being prepared for the experience will help make it less daunting.
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You might be an ambitious person who has achieved every dream you ever sought. But when it comes to pregnancy, it seems that this precious goal is one that's just out of your reach. And despite much persistence and patience, you're disappointed each month. If you have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, it may be time for you and your partner to see a fertility specialist -- even if you're both otherwise healthy [source Mayo Clinic].

There can be a number of reasons behind infertility -- such as advancing age in either or both partners, low sperm motility or polycystic ovary disease -- but most don't mean that you can't conceive, just that conception may be more challenging. Fertility problems are no more common in women than men, so it's important that you and your partner see a specialist together.

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Men can improve their fertility by quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and avoiding saunas, hot tubs and hot baths [source: WebMD]. Women can do so by ensuring they aren't overweight or underweight. If you're a woman whose body mass index (BMI) is above normal, it can take you twice as long to get pregnant as someone of normal weight [source: WebMD]. It is also worth noting that some methods of birth control, such as those using progesterone injections, can delay fertility for six months to a year [source: American Baby].

If you've taken all necessary precautions and still can't conceive, make an appointment as soon as possible. On the next page, we tell you what you can expect during your visit.

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What to Expect When You Visit a Fertility Specialist

Visits to fertility specialists have been covered humorously by "Sex and the City," "Will & Grace" and almost every sitcom in between. But in reality, such an event is far from funny. And while being prepared doesn't make the situation any less serious, it can make it less daunting.

If you suspect you may be infertile, you can schedule an initial visit with your gynecologist. However, because your partner will also need to be evaluated, it's best to find a clinic that specializes in reproductive medicine. During your first visit, be prepared to give the doctor details on your conception attempts (such as how long you have been trying to get pregnant, and which times during your cycle you have intercourse). He or she will also ask detailed questions about the medical histories of both you and your partner.

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Fertility tests for men are usually limited to a physical exam, semen analysis, hormone testing or a transrectal and scrotal ultrasound [source: Mayo Clinic]. For women, tests are sometimes more comprehensive and invasive, and can include [source: Mayo Clinic]:

  • Ovulation testing, to ensure ovulation is occurring
  • Ovarian reserve testing, to assess the effectiveness of the eggs
  • Hormone testing, to check ovulatory, thyroid and pituitary hormone levels
  • Hysterosalpingography, to evaluate the uterus and fallopian tubes
  • Laparoscopy, to examine all of the major reproductive organs
  • Pelvic ultrasound, to investigate uterine or fallopian tube disease
  • Genetic testing, to see if there's a genetic defect causing the infertility

Depending on the results of your tests, treatment can include anything from lifestyle or sexual changes to fertility drugs to assisted reproductive technology. Fertility treatments run the gamut of effort, cost and risk, so you should also be prepared to spend a good amount of time consulting with your physician and your partner on next steps.

For lots more information on fertility and reproduction, see the next page.

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Lots More Information

Related Articles

Sources

  • American Baby. "8 Surprising Fertility Facts." Discovery Health. (March 20, 2011)https://health.howstuffworks.com/pregnancy-and-parenting/pregnancy/fertility/eight-surprising-fertility-facts7.htm
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Infertility: An Overview." 2003. (March 20, 2011)http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/infertility_overview.pdf
  • Mayo Clinic. "Infertility -- Symptoms." June 27, 2009. (March 20, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310/DSECTION=symptoms
  • Mayo Clinic. "Infertility -- Tests and Diagnosis." June 27, 2009. (March 20, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310/DSECTION=tests%2Dand%2Ddiagnosis
  • Resolve, the National Infertility Association. "Do You Need to See a Specialist?". (March 20, 2011)http://www.resolve.org/infertility-overview/what-is-infertility/do-you-need-to-see-a-specialist.html
  • WebMD. "Understanding Infertility -- The Basics." Oct. 28, 2010. (March 20, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/understanding-infertility-basics
  • WebMD. "Understanding Ovulation and Fertility: Facts to Help You Get Pregnant." May 21, 2009. (March 20, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/baby/slideshow-understanding-fertility-ovulation

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